THE BACK PAGE Flogging the Franchise State officials viewed with alarm Texas A&M University abrupt affiliation, earlier this year, with Houston South Texas College of Law a heretofore private institution. Although the two schools de clared that their unprecedented agreement would cost the state nothing \(sort of like an ABSOLUTELY merger nd officials at other institutions notably U.T.Austin and the University of Houston Law Center complained that A&M was South Texas promptly sued the Board. \(They’re lawyers, you understand. No doubt the lawsuit is all in the public interest, and will cost Texans ABSOLUTELY Morales, acting as the Board’s lawyer, duly announced May 12 that “the purported agreement” between the two schools “is void.” South Texas begs to differ and it will, in court. Amidst all this high-minded huffing and puffing, our state education officials seem to have lost sight of What Higher Education is All About. No, it’s not “The Life of the Mind,” or “Western Civ I and II.” It’s “Selling the Product.” In the words of one unnamed A&M official, the other schools are just “jealous because we’ve come up with a brand-new concept in higher education.” Actually, as one skeptical Observer reader points out, “Colonel Sanders came up with it a long time ago. It’s called franchising.” By most accounts, South Texas has a decent law school, but that name has always been a marketing problem: since when is Houston in South Texas, anyway? A&M has always wanted its own law school, and it al ready has a passable educational reputation \(rated “Tex-Best!” by a portant, Brand Name Recognition. Who, after all, wanted to belly up to “Kroc’s Hamburgers?” Ray Kroc bought the name “McDonald’ s” and the rest is commercial and nutritional history. The Aggies, having spent a fortune of the state’s money in building up the prestige, reputation, and big ol’ running backs of the Maroon and White, are now exchanging a little of that Value-Added Education in return for its own corral of high-priced law professors. The competition may howl, but hey, didn’t new U.H. regent Suzette Caldwell recently blurt out to everybody’s public embarrassment that Houston students want “name brand” degrees? In the wake of the A&M/South Texas agreement, theMexican-American Bar Association praised South Texas for attempting to “increase the value of its degrees.” That is, the legal education will be exactly the same, but the framed certificate on the wall will be worth more in billable hours. In this entrepreneurial spirit, let’s drop the pretense. Like all modern municipal sports authorities on the make and rooting at the public trough the Coordinating Board should put all the “Naming Rights” to Texas universities on the auction block. The state could acquire a lot more than just a law school. What about a mall say, the University of Texas Shops at San Marcos? Or maybe an airline, Southwest Texas State Air, where genuine cheerleaders serve the peanuts. Then again, it would be more in keeping with the spirit of the times to let branding work the other way around. Instead of Texas A&M University, we might have Texas ADM “Supermarket to the World” University, complete with compliant regents available for corporate board seats, stock options, and inventive new concepts in higher education. Companies, take note: for the right offer, w6’11 throw in a few thousand Texas students, at a bulk discount. But Call NOW! Operators are standing by! .1.4r/K.41344.44,4104….